The Skirball Cultural Center presents Ameryka by 2011 Hoi Fellow Nancy Keystone, a dynamic staged reading that also features music, movement, and images exploring the surprising connections between American revolutionary ideals and Poland's desire for freedom. Written and directed by award-winning multidisciplinary artist Nancy Keystone and created in collaboration with her Critical Mass Performance Group, Ameryka is one in a series of public programs related to the new exhibition Creating the United States, on view at the Skirball through February 17, 2013.
The exhibition takes place during the crucial weeks leading up to the Presidential election, bringing timely, historical perspective to current political debates by examining the vision and legacy of our nation's founding documents-the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
Poland's own epic struggle for independence culminated in 1989 when Lech Walesa became the first popularly elected president of Poland.
The idea for Ameryka was sparked two decades later, during Keystone's first visit to Poland in 2009. There she came across a 1989 "Solidarity" election poster featuring a black-and-white photograph of Gary Cooper as Sheriff Will Kane from the 1957 film High Noon. Striding against a stark white background beneath a large red "Solidarity" logo, Kane also wears the logo above his sheriff's star and holds in his hand, instead of a gun, an election ballot. The bottom of the poster reads, in Polish: "At high noon, June 4, 1989."
"When I saw this poster, I was struck by the question of how this supremely iconic American image could hold such power for the people of Poland, how it helped rally citizens to the voting booth," Keystone recalled. "What did this say about the relationship between Poland and the U.S.?"
Keystone has since made four more trips to Poland, and began working on the piece with Critical Mass Performance Group in June 2010. The work combines Keystone's own ongoing examination of democracy and the American experience with her discovery of a vast universe of associations between the United States and Poland.
Performed by a cast of nine playing multiple roles, the multi-layered narrative focuses on three eras: the late eighteenth century, the 1950s–1960s, and the 1980s. It explores the transmission of ideas through time and space and, as Keystone puts it, "individual acts that shift the avalanche of history."
The reading of Ameryka will be presented today, November 4 at 2PM. Tickets are $15 or $12 for Skirball members and full-time students. For advance reservations, call 877-SCC-4TIX or visit www.skirball.org. For general information, visit the Skirball website or call 310-440-4500.
Creating the United States helps visitors discover how our nation's founders managed to build a strong and resilient republic, even in the face of political turmoil in their own time. While fulfilling the principles laid down by the founders has been a struggle throughout the centuries, the documents they painstakingly wrote are living instruments, essential to the evolution of America and its future.
On view are original documents and autograph letters by George Washington, John Adams, John Hancock, and Thomas Jefferson; a first edition of Common Sense by Thomas Paine (1776); engravings by Paul Revere; a William J. Stone copy of the Declaration of Independence (1847); a Members Edition of the United States Constitution (1787); a facsimile of Jefferson's desk on which he drafted the Declaration of Independence; and an original copy of Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation (1863). Rarely has the history of American democracy been so vividly assembled for public exhibition in Southern California.
Creating the United States at the Skirball was adapted from the exhibition of the same name organized by the Library of Congress, which was seen by some two million visitors during its four-year run at the Library in Washington, D.C.